Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

If you’ve been waiting for the right time to support our work—that time is now.

Our mission is simple: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good.

But without the support of our readers, this model does not work and we simply won’t survive. It’s that simple.
We must meet our Mid-Year Campaign goal but we need you now.

Please, support independent journalism today.

Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Without your help, we won’t survive.

Employees are still calling on the fast food franchise pay $15 an hour and respect their right to unionize. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Employees are still calling on the fast food franchise pay $15 an hour and respect their right to unionize. (Photo: Shutterstock)

It’s Time for $15 and a Union

A minimum wage hike would boost earnings for 40 million workers

Negin Owliaei

 by OtherWords

Last month, McDonald’s announced a dramatic about-face in its political priorities. After years of strikes and protests from labor activists, the burger giant has decided to end its involvement in lobbying campaigns against increasing America’s paltry $7.25 federal minimum wage.  

It’s a big victory for the Fight for $15.

It’s been less than a decade since a few hundred fast-food employees walked off the job to demand a $15 wage and a union. Now, they’re a global movement that’s fundamentally changed the conversation on the rights of low-wage workers.

It’s been less than a decade since a few hundred fast-food employees walked off the job to demand a $15 wage and a union. Now, they’re a global movement that’s fundamentally changed the conversation on the rights of low-wage workers.

For the most part, federal lawmakers have watched idly while cities and states have boosted their minimum wages up to $15. Just last month, Maryland became the sixth state — and the third just this year — to phase in a $15 minimum wage after lawmakers overrode Republican Governor Larry Hogan’s veto.

But the idea now has more traction in Congress thanks to the recently introduced Raise the Wage Act, which would set a national minimum pay of $15 an hour by 2024. The legislation would lift pay for almost 40 million workers, the Economic Policy Institute has found.

As the push for higher wages continues to gain steam across the country, the movement promises to keep fighting: Workers greeted the new announcement from McDonald’s with more protests.

It’s not enough to decide, they say, that you “wish to advance, not impede” the discussion on a livable wage by simply ending your campaign against an enormously popular policy.

Employees are still calling on the fast food franchise pay $15 an hour and respect their right to unionize. That’s a pretty fair demand, considering their CEO made nearly $22 million in 2017 — over 3,100 times what the typical McDonald’s employee took home that year. They’re also continuing their fight to make the company take workplace harassment seriously.

McDonald’s is often — and rightfully — portrayed as a villain in the fight for fair wages and workplace protections. But it’s also only one player in an economy that continues to tighten its chokehold on anyone who works for a living.

Raising the federal minimum wage is one necessary change we can make to a system that throws endless amounts of money towards the rich while balking at workers’ demands to be able to live off their earnings.

How can we begin to imagine the inequity baked into that system?

Take a look at Wall Street’s bonus culture to see just how warped our economy has become. Last year, Wall Street employees took home $27.5 billion in bonuses alone. That pool of money could pay all of the United States’ full-time minimum wage workers more than three times over, a new report from the Institute for Policy Studies has found.

Those bonuses mean the average Wall Street employee added $153,700 to their base pay in 2018 — a truly mind-boggling sum of money that’s increased by 1,000 percent since 1985. If the minimum wage had grown at that rate, McDonald’s workers would be making over $33 an hour today.

These staggering numbers go a long way toward illuminating how stark the concentration of wealth and power has become in this country. They also highlight the enormity of the task of remaking our economic system so that it works for everyone, not just CEOs and Wall Street bankers.

But, thanks to Fight for $15, we’ve been given a clear place to start: $15 and a union.


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.
Negin Owliaei

Negin Owliaei

Negin Owliaei is a co-editor and researcher at IPS's Inequality.org. Before joining IPS, she worked as a journalist and digital producer at Al Jazeera Media Network, where she covered social movements and the internet for the award-winning program The Stream.

"I'm sure this will be all over the corporate media, right?"
That’s what one longtime Common Dreams reader said yesterday after the newsroom reported on new research showing how corporate price gouging surged to a nearly 70-year high in 2021. While major broadcasters, newspapers, and other outlets continue to carry water for their corporate advertisers when they report on issues like inflation, economic inequality, and the climate emergency, our independence empowers us to provide you stories and perspectives that powerful interests don’t want you to have. But this independence is only possible because of support from readers like you. You make the difference. If our support dries up, so will we. Our crucial Mid-Year Campaign is now underway and we are in emergency mode to make sure we raise the necessary funds so that every day we can bring you the stories that corporate, for-profit outlets ignore and neglect. Please, if you can, support Common Dreams today.

 

Motorist 'Tried to Murder' Abortion Rights Advocates at Iowa Protest, Witnesses Say

Although one witness said the driver went "out of his way" to hit pro-choice protestors in the street, Cedar Rapids police declined to make an arrest.

Kenny Stancil ·


'A Hate Crime': Oslo Pride Parade Canceled After Deadly Shooting at Gay Bar

A 42-year-old gunman has been charged with terrorism following what Norway's prime minister called a "terrible and deeply shocking attack on innocent people."

Kenny Stancil ·


'We WILL Fight Back': Outrage, Resolve as Protests Erupt Against SCOTUS Abortion Ruling

Demonstrators took to the streets Friday to defiantly denounce the Supreme Court's right-wing supermajority after it rescinded a constitutional right for the first time in U.S. history.

Brett Wilkins ·


80+ US Prosecutors Vow Not to Be Part of Criminalizing Abortion Care

"Criminalizing and prosecuting individuals who seek or provide abortion care makes a mockery of justice," says a joint statement signed by 84 elected attorneys. "Prosecutors should not be part of that."

Kenny Stancil ·


Progressives Rebuke Dem Leadership as Clyburn Dismisses Death of Roe as 'Anticlimactic'

"The gap between the Democratic leadership, and younger progressives on the question of 'How Bad Is It?' is just enormous."

Julia Conley ·

Common Dreams Logo